(W)ringing out the old
A quick survey: Who had a great year in 2009? Anyone?
A good year? I see a few hands.
How about a year marked by financial insecurity, worry over global shifting tides and the subsequent pressure that follows from such widespread uncertainty? Care to couple it with the normal upheavals and movements of daily life that usually occupy the hours of our day not conscripted by work and outside obligations? Feeling more pressured than ever in your adult lives? Ah, now we’re all on the same page.
Those who’ve read my columns over the years know that in situations like these I’m typically out there talking about how we react to the crazy world around us as filtered through my own life lens. I typically close with some advice or thought intended to carry us through, or at least put things in some kind of calming perspective.
A few of you may have noticed that I’ve been relatively quiet this year, publishing irregularly and then on more personal topics than in the past. Admittedly, I’ve been a little preoccupied.
Sound familiar? If so, then perhaps you, too, are little comforted by the idea of a jobless “economic recovery,” sick of watching politicians battle our democracy into the ground out of sheer childishness and a selfish desire to “win” at all costs. Maybe you’ve suffered deep personal losses this year. Or perhaps you’ve actually gained some traction but the general fragile state of things casts doubt over whether it will last. All this describes my year to a tee, with a (maybe not so) surprising side effect.
When the new year comes, there will be new health care laws that will either help my employees or put the company under even greater strain, depending on which “version” (if the Frankenstein-esque bill in the Senate even qualifies for the designation) of the bill is signed into law. Refundable tax credits might help us as a small business: as is the same for the majority of companies who employ less than 20 people but who in the aggregate supply about 22 million jobs, there aren’t thousands of dollars in prospective taxes to save through credits earned by attempting to shoulder the overhead of full benefits. A refundable credit, depending on its size, would help defray some of those costs. A non-refundable credit would … I don’t want to think about it.
Cripes. I didn’t sit down to write about health reform, but one thought leads to another and before you know it I’m off topic. Anyone else? Thank you for the show of hands.
For the first time in my life (it’s true!) I feel like much of my destiny is out of my control. I’m waiting for shoes to drop all around me so I can move forward or at least have some closure, which I’ve come to believe would feel like peace whether the resolution was forward-moving or a setback. I just want to know what’s going to happen, and the answers aren’t coming in fast enough for my taste.
So I’m trying to take life one day at a time, to remember that 80% of the world’s population subsists on less than $10 per day, and that despite my well-founded worry my family is still luckier than most. But it’s hard sometimes to keep things in perspective. I wasn’t raised to be prepared for this and honestly never considered that it would be necessary to assess the world around me in such basic terms. I thought living through the farm crisis that ravaged my childhood community and being raised in relative poverty myself had made me a strong, pragmatic person, unafraid of uncertainty, and even a little advantaged when it came to dealing with hard times.
I freely admit that I’m in over my head. We’ve had a phoenix of a year at Vital Media Group, LLC, and we’re on track in 2010 to grow beyond any benchmark of the past. My mortgage is current and there’s food in the fridge. Some needed expenditures are on hold, but in all I’ve got it pretty good. I get to go to work every day and come home to a warm house every night. Am I running the hamster wheel these days when it’s more important than ever to be on top of my game? I’ll say yes to that, but I’ll qualify it with a firm conviction that I’ve taken advantage of the resources at my disposal to get by until things get better and position both myself and, with the help of my business partners, ThirdCoast Digest, to break fast at the starting gun, whenever it decides to sound.
For now, though, we wait. We lay groundwork and we try to remain brave. We look for inspiration. I’ll leave you for the year with a quote I recently re-read from Teddy Roosevelt. We need you now, sir, more than ever, and thank you for the timely reminder.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
“Citizenship in a Republic”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910